Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks to media during an affordable housing press conference at a public housing development in Winnipeg, Thursday, April 4, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew appeared at odds over carbon pricing Thursday.

Kinew’s NDP government, elected last October, is putting together a proposal to try to convince Ottawa to exempt the province from the federally imposed carbon price — called a backstop — that has added to the cost of gasoline, natural gas and other items.

 

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Trudeau, in the Manitoba capital to announce new funding for affordable housing, said Manitoba and other provinces are free to propose alternatives to the federal backstop, but they must include a price on carbon.

“A number of jurisdictions have moved forward with different measures that are different from the federal backstop, that keep a price signal on pollution while they invest in renewables, while they continue to reach for net zero (emissions), and that’s an important part of the entire conversation that we’re having,” Trudeau told reporters.

“But what remains essential is that it cannot be free to pollute anywhere around the country.”

Kinew later told reporters that he wants the federal backstop removed and is not proposing to replace it with a Manitoba price on carbon.

Manitoba’s proposal, still in development, is based on emission-cutting initiatives — rebates on electric vehicles in this week’s budget, subsidies for people switching to clean energy for home heating and the billions of dollars Manitoba has spent on its hydroelectric grid.

“We’ve got a credible path to net zero. So we’re going to work together with that other level of government to find an approach that works for Manitobans,” Kinew said.

“It’s a two-way conversation. So we look forward to engaging.”

Kinew has been one of the less openly defiant premiers on the federal carbon levy. He was not among the seven provincial leaders who recently called on the federal government to cancel the April 1 increase in the federal price. He has been hoping to persuade the federal government that Manitoba deserves credit for the steps it has taken to reduce emissions.

The former Progressive Conservative government in Manitoba tried to avoid the federal price through green initiatives and included a lower carbon price in its plan. But it did not convince the federal government. The Tories took the matter to court and lost.

Now in Opposition, the Tories said Kinew has no option to avoid the federal backstop other than imposing his own carbon levy, despite his public statements to the contrary.

“When are the NDP going to share the details of their Manitoba carbon tax?” interim Tory leader Wayne Ewasko said in question period.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2023. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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